The same day that French President Nicolas Sarkozy revealed at the G8 summit in Japan that he planned to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on behalf of the EU, Hans-Gert Poettering, head of the European Parliament, said he would be staying home.
Sarkozy's announcement met with widespread indignation in the European assembly, with MEPs accusing him of letting down European Union efforts to pressure China on civil rights and Tibet. France currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-member bloc.
"Europe has capitulated ... Europe should keep Mr. Sarkozy away from Beijing," parliament vice-president Edward McMillan-Scott told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Accusations of hypocrisy
Green party floor leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit accused Sarkozy of hypocrisy and exposing Europe to "humiliation," reported Reuters news agency.
"It is scandalous that he is not prepared to boycott the ceremony," he said, maintaining that the French leader prioritizes business interests before human rights.
However, French Europe Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet defended his president's decision and said the EU "should think twice before teaching the rest of the world about morals."
Lack of progress
Poettering, meanwhile, steered clear of any reference to Sarkozy and merely cited a "lack of progress" in talks between China and representatives of Tibetan leader Dalai Lama for his decision not to travel to China for the Aug. 8 ceremony.
"Given that these talks have to date proved inconclusive, I have decided not to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games," he said in a statement.